Letterman's Roundtable

Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders hosts a collection of former Tar Heels for the final 'State of the Heels' football roundtable discussion of the season.

Buck Sanders – Ok, guys, the Maryland game sort of wrapped up the North Carolina season and there's a lot to talk about there. But, the one thing that I think we probably ought to lead with is, if the Tar Heels were able to go, they'd be the Coastal Division champs. I know that's something that probably important to all of you.

Matt Baker - Yeah, congratulations to these players for coming back after a lot of the nonsense that's taken place the last couple of years, to come back with a new coaching staff and win the Coastal Division. Unfortunately what has happened the last couple of years, we can't go. That doesn't mean it's any less of an accomplishment. Like we said before the year, we thought this team could win the Coastal and they delivered. So, congrats to those guys for working hard and congrats to the seniors, especially, for sticking it out – standing up in that first meeting and saying, ‘regardless of the ban, we're coming back and we're going to get things done.' My hat is off to those guys.

Buck Sanders – Quincy, I know that North Carolina has struggled; they haven't won a conference title since 1980 and this is their first opportunity to play for the conference title since the expansion and they're not able to do that. How do you think that affects even next year's team when they actually do have an opportunity to compete?

Quincy Monk - Well, I think it's something to build toward the future. Like you mentioned, we haven't been to an ACC title game since 1980, when I think Lawrence Taylor was in the program. So, I think what you saw with this program, like Matt said earlier, these seniors took it upon themselves to stick with the program and stick with Coach Larry Fedora - he's done a phenomenal job his first year winning eight games. I really think it's something that we're building toward a future. As you look at recruiting, you could use that as a stepping stone where you can tell these young guys, ‘well, we didn't get a chance to play for it this year, but we are the Coastal champs and we've got great momentum for next year.' So, you're going to see a lot of these young guys that are looking at Carolina as an opportunity to build on this year and also build towards a future. I know it's frustrating – we haven't had a chance to get to this level in quite some time, but it is something to look upon as far as getting new recruits, new players that want to be a part of a winning program and build towards that new-found success.

Buck Sanders – Mark, one of the things that I've talked about in my columns on the Premium Message Board at InsideCarolina.com is the big disparity in a lot of football games in 2012 where the defense just didn't show up at all in the first half but came on like gangbusters in the second half. They did that against Maryland, which was sort of a microcosm of the season. Do you have any insight on how a team can give up so many points defensively in the first half and then come out in the second half and hold a team to under 10 points, which I think they did six or seven times this year?

Mark Paschal - They had so many of the peaks and valleys in games this year. Give the guys credit for sticking with it and fighting it out and doing the best they could. At times it looked like completely different defenses. At times it looked not as good as it could possibly look and at times it left a lot to be desired. There are questions that are really hard to explain because you don't know what you're going to get. It was frustrating for us to see them because they had so many moments where they played so well and then all of the sudden they turn into a bunch of guys we didn't recognize – whether that's confusion on the defensive side or whether that's just not executing, I think it's a combination of both. But the fact that they were able to pull together and make the most of a coaching change to win the Coastal, it's something these guys should be very proud of. It was a collective effort and everybody should hold their heads up high and this will be great moving forward because now we know that we can do it – we know that we can play for championships and I think it's a great thing moving forward for this football team.

Buck Sanders - Now I want to talk a little about next year, and we understand that there are personnel losses, offense and defense, for North Carolina, and there are going to be changes next year - other ACC teams will improve, and some will decline. But, I want to start with Matt and ask, where do you think it goes from there? Do you think that maybe they're the preseason favorite for 2013 in the Coastal Division?

Matt Baker - I'd have to say that we're certainly in the conversation and right up there at the top. Like you said, I don't know what all the other teams are doing, and I'm not really sure what other teams look like, but offensively we're going to have a lot of talent coming back. It's going to be another exciting year offensively. There are teams that are going to have to score to keep up with us. I expect to see the offense - with Gio or without Gio - be even more effective next year. So, I would say we're certainly in the discussion to be the Coastal favorite.

Buck Sanders - Brian do you think that North Carolina is going to be the preseason favorite in the Coastal next year?

Brian Chacos - Buck, I don't know if I can say that Carolina is going to be the favorite. Virginia Tech is going to have a lot of kids returning. Thomas is definitely going to come back for another year. And, which way is Virginia Tech trending? I think they just had an abysmal year this year; they're trending down. But, is Frank Beamer going to have two bad years back-to-back like this? I don't know, he's just been too good of a coach. And, with the publications just being in love with Virginia Tech after all these years, I could see them giving Virginia Tech the nod, probably in the preseason with us a very close second. Miami is going to have a lot of good, young depth I could see. It's going to be just a crap shoot between the three of us. Again, it really depends on what North Carolina does on the front seven on the defensive side of the ball. That's going to determine our fate again, I think, for next year.

Buck Sanders – Mark, what's your opinion? How do you see North Carolina stacking up next year? They would have played for the ACC Title this year. Are they going to play for the ACC Title next year?

Mark Paschal - Well, Buck, I'm glad that you brought up this question. Just looking on paper, we lose a guy like Sylvester Williams; we lose a guy like Kevin Reddick on defense; we lose a guy like Jon Cooper on the offensive line; we could possibly lose Gio. They've got some big shoes to fill and it's going to take an off season. It's going to take a lot of hard work and young guys stepping up. That's what makes college football so fun and so exciting – it's the influx of the new kids and new talent – guys that want to step up and answer the bell. So, if I had to guess right now, I'd say what we did on offense this year was great and we had some good times and, on defense we had some not so great times. So, since the fact that we're losing a substantial amount of kind of cornerstones of our defense, a defensive tackle and a middle linebacker and our depth was so poor this year, it's going to be tough for me to say that we should win the Coastal next year. But, I'd like to think that we'd be able to score a lot of points with Bryn Renner, the young receiving corps that's coming back. We've got a lot of talent in the running backfield still, even if Gio decides he has had enough fun in college. So, it's going to be tough with all the unanswered questions on defense, but I think we've got a chance to be really good for a lot of years to come.

Buck Sanders – Quincy, I'm going to give you the last word. Where do you think North Carolina is going to stack up in the Coastal Division next year?

Quincy Monk - Well, I've got to agree with Matt, they'll definitely be in the conversation. Like Mark said, we are going to have some big shoes to fill with Cooper and Williams and Reddick. Some of these leaders in the football program, we're going to have to find some guys who can replace that kind of productivity. Not to mention, if Gio decides to leave, that's another big question mark. So, I think there are so many different variables – if Gio doesn't come back, and who's going to fill the roles for Jonathan Cooper and Kevin Reddick? All of it depends on who's willing to step up in their absence. I really liked the way Renner finished the season off. We definitely have some offensive weapons – Ebron tweeted he's looking to be an all-American next year. So, you've got these guys already thinking about next year and already thinking about having an impactful season. So, myself, I definitely see them being at the top of the Coastal. The ACC is always going to be a conference where you never know because anybody can win on any given Saturday. I really like our chances with the scheme. On the offense, these guys are starting to feel more comfortable and the playcalling, Bryn is already starting to feel more comfortable. With another year under his belt with this offense, I really see some exciting things. If we get the defense centered up, guys filling in the roles for some of the guys that are leaving, I really feel that we have a great chance next year in the Coastal.

Buck Sanders – Okay guys, that's going to wrap it up for the Letterman's Roundtable this year. I appreciate everybody joining us and we'll talk to you again as a prelude to spring practice.

Inside Carolina Top Stories